The high cost of SQL Server under management

published: 2014-10-20 17:33

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with representatives from approximately 50 companies who weren’t current clients of RockSolid SQL, who utilized SQL Server in a production capacity, but had no formal SQL Server management capability. These companies typically had between 1 and 10 SQL Server instances, and database management was typically undertaken by a non-trained or non-experienced DBA resource. For example, a developer, IT manager, support engineer etc.

The vast majority of the people I spoke to recognised the need for formal SQL Server database management and stated financial restrictions as the limiting factor to them implementing such a capability (which is something we could help them with). However, out the minority, those who did not recognize the need for formal SQL Server database management, the most common reason stated for this view was the lack of apparent issues with the existing implementation. I.e. they had been using SQL Server for production use without formal database management, and had experience no/few issues.

All well and good, however I explained SQL Server issues do not necessarily present themselves immediately in the simplistic form, being “it’s working” or “it’s broken”. SQL Server issues tend to lurk under the surface, progressively degrading over time (in the case of some performance issues), or only becoming apparent during times of systems failure (in the case of some recovery issues), or only after other evidence of theft or hacking is identified (in the case of some security issues). Proper SQL Server management mitigates these types of issues on an ongoing basis, regardless of if the impact is likely to be felt today. Proper SQL Server management is about being prepared, so if failure does occur, or network breach occurs the impact is minimized. Proper SQL Server management is also about being pro-active, about maintaining a 1% optimisation in performance week after week so it isn’t given a chance to turn into a 20% impact months down the road.

Is My SQL Server ok?

This is all good in theory, and may sound like sales speak so does it pan out in reality? Well, in addition to our RockSolid DBA as a Service offering, we regularly also perform SQL Server health audits for clients who have SQL Server instances in production, but are not yet managed by us. After reviewing a random sample of recent health audit results I have categorised these results as follows.

  • 95% of Instances review had resolvable issues impacting negatively on SQL Server performance. Sometimes it was minor, sometimes it was major. However in almost all cases it was progressive, i.e. performance continues to degrade over time.
  • 60% of Instances had resolvable issues preventing the SQL Server from being recovered as per the customer’s expectation or accepted best practice. These “issues” would not have been discovered until a critical system failure occurred.
  • 45% of Instances had resolvable issues which may have been exposing the customer’s data to undue risk.
  • 40% of Instances had resolvable issues which was impacting negatively on available system capacity.
  • 65% of Instances had resolvable, ongoing issues with routine maintenance which was causing impact to one of more of the indicators above.

While it is possible to install and even run SQL Server without proper database management, you should be aware that there are some risks involved with doing so. This is true in all deployment scenarios, from on-premise through IaaS and even DBaaS (albeit with some reduction in certain risk capabilities). There are good reasons why databases have been managed by “Database Administrators” for the past 40 years, and good reasons why they will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Sure the format of delivering this capability changes, the technology changes, the cost/benefit or ROI model changes – but regardless what we are taking about is a skilled responsibility. That remains despite any change.

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